UK Election is Waking up Canadians

In and odd way the kerfuffle over the "hung parliament" may actually cause Canadians to take a look at our own system. Minority governments are nothing new here in Canada but, they are a big deal in the UK. I good deal is being written about the stupidity of the first past the post system our governments fight do hard to hang on to.

I particularly like this letter by Geoff Rytell printed in the Toronto Star.

Thomas Walkom notes that now, because no party has earned a majority in England, there is going to be a “fierce fight over who will govern.” In the first-past-the-post electoral system, a system that Canada shares with Great Britain, it’s all about winning the seat but not so much about representing all the voters. FPTP is good for horses. But unlike horses, voters pay taxes and deserve to be equally represented in parliament. First-past-the-post fails to recognize that voters who choose to vote for someone who doesn’t take a seat are just as important as those who choose to vote for a winning candidate. British Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg wants to fix that with proportional representation so that the “who will govern” fight becomes instead an amicable sharing of governance.

Let's keep this discussion going.


That Pesky Gun Registry Issue Again

The Regina Leader Post may not be the worst daily newspaper in Canada, I'm sure there are others as bad in other communities but if there are I'd wager they are owned and operated by CanWest too. I don't blame the reporters who I'd guess, short staffed and under budgeted, are doing the best they can and I have long thought that there may not actually be any editors working at the LP.

They really get under my skin when they report on things like gun control. A case in point. The headline to this story in the LP today was Police Divided Over Gun Registry.

Yesterday three predominant police groups, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Association of Police Boards held a press conference in Ottawa to urge the government not to get rid of the long gun registry.

“The knowledge of who possesses firearms helps us to prevent tragic events virtually every day in this country,” said William Blair, Toronto police chief and president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

Charles Momy, president of the Police Association, said if the registry “can prevent one person in this country from either committing suicide, from being injured or killed, or that a crime is solved as a result of information obtained by the registry, isn’t that worth it for all Canadians?”

Chief Frank Beazley of the Halifax Regional Police said “There is no question the system is a valuable tool. We have problems with rifles and shotguns as well as handguns. We need rigorous controls for both...The registry has made Canada a safer country. The registry has saved lives. We lose it at our peril. "

The RCMP that support the registry heeded Namcy Ruth's advice and chose not to be at the press conference.

The Harper government tried to counter the advice given by the police organizations by digging up a couple of embittered former members of the Winnipeg SWAT team to say the registry is ineffective. They failed to say the major reason for its ineffectiveness if that the Tories continue to give amnesty to people who refuse to register their guns.

The LP -and the CanWest News Service seem to support the scrapping of the legislation but lets look at the facts

• The gun registry is accessed by police in the job 11,000 times a day. Up to four million times a year.
• In 1991, more than 1400 Canadians were killed with guns, today it’s less than 800.
• The firearm homicide rate is down by 40% while the homicide rate without guns is down only 28%.
• The rate of homicides with rifles and shotguns and the rate of women murdered with guns have plummeted. Both the 1991 and 1995 legislation focused on strengthening controls on rifles and shotguns.
• Domestic homicides with firearms, suicide with firearms and robberies with firearms have also declined dramatically over the last decade.
• The rate of homicides with rifles and shotguns has decreased by 70% since 1991.
• Murders of women with guns plummeted from 85 in 1991 to 32 in 2004.

The gun registry has been an important tool in tackling domestic violence. Police use the registry as a crucial resource which allows both families and police to stay safe.

Why does the Harper "tough on crime" government want to scrap the registry? It is pure politics. These guys pander to the rural voters who see the registry as an infringement of their rights.

Ludicrous election results in U.K. match those in Canada

But unlike Canada, Britain may move on electoral reform

Yesterday’s British parliamentary election provided yet another breath-taking example of how an antiquated winner-take-all voting system distorts election results.

With 626 of the 650 seats declared as of this posting anyway, things might shift a bit, the Conservatives won about 47% of the seats with just 36% of the votes. Labour received an equivalent windfall of undeserved seats: 40% of the seats with just 29% of the votes.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats won only 8% of the seats, despite winning about 23% of the votes. As Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said, it is “abundantly clear the electoral system is broken.”

“As ludicrous as Britain’s election results are, they are no worse than what we experience in Canada,” said Bronwen Bruch, President of Fair Vote Canada, a multi-partisan citizens’ campaign for voting system reform in Canada.

“The big difference is that Britain may well move forward on electoral reform, since both Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who together represent a majority of voters, are prepared to scrap the discredited first-past-the-post system. The Liberal Democrats are expected to demand action on proportional representation.”

Yesterday’s election in the U.K. follows the 2005 election in which Tony Blair’s Labour Party won a majority of seats with a mere 35% of the popular vote.

How bad are Canadian elections in comparison?

“In recent years we have had three provincial majority governments formed by parties that came in second place in the popular vote,” said Larry Gordon, Executive Director of Fair Vote Canada. “The current Liberal government in New Brunswick is an example – the New Brunswick Conservatives actually won more votes in the last election.”

Fair Vote Canada also pointed to these examples of electoral dysfunction in Canada:

  •  In 1997, Jean Chretien’s Liberals won a majority of seats with just 39% of the votes.

  •  In 1990, Bob Rae’s New Democrats won a majority in Ontario with less than 38% of the votes.

  • In the 2008 federal election, 940,000 Greens elected no one, while 813,000 Conservative voters in Alberta alone sent 27 MPs to Parliament.

“Pressure for electoral reform has been slowly building in Britain and then the MPs’ spending scandal blew the lid,” said Gordon. “Plus, Nick Clegg, the third party leader has said electoral reform is a condition for supporting a new government. A similar mix of conditions may be building in Canada – we can only hope since Canadian voter turnout is dropping as people walk away in disgust from our dysfunctional system.”

For more information contact Fair Vote Canada's Executive Director, Larry Gordon at  647-519-7585

Fair Vote Canada


Nicholson and His Cronies Are Out of Touch

The right wing, law and order agenda marches on. The Government has again introduced legislation which would make a six month jail sentence mandatory for growing a few as six marijuana plants. This is legislation that died on the order paper when Harper prorogued Parliament a few months ago. The Senate reviewed the bill and thinking it too harsh, recommended some changes which would relax some of the more draconian penalties but Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has chosen to ignore those suggestions and resurrected his old bill.

Nicholson who I suppose would know about these things, suggests that anything over five plants growing at home is done for the purpose of trafficking. What a crock. It just shows how out of touch these Tories are.

If this bill passes, anyone wanting to smoke a little reefer will have to buy it on the street instead of harvesting a little from under the grow lights.

This all might go down well in small town Alberta but I can't see it winning these guys any support in British Columbia where, from an agricultural perspective,  the devil's lettuce is the largest cash crop in the province by a long shot.  Amazingly, the Liberals voted for this legislation the last time around but, they seem afraid to vote against anything that might inadvertently cause an election. Frankly, I'll feel a little better when the Liberals stop self destructing and find their cahones.

The thing that we should never forget when it comes to government bills is that a good majority of Canadians votes against the Tories in the last election. They may be ahead in the polls today but they can never claim to be a government supported by a majority of Canadians. They are just there because of a deficiency in our electoral system.


My Dog Annie

I remember all the research done in our house about what kind of dog would fit into our family and our lifestyle. It seems to me that almost every day I was being educated about one breed or another. About which one would be just right.

So I didn’t pick the breed and once that was decided, I didn’t choose the pup. She was a flat coated retriever we called Annie but, she wasn’t my dog. She was my wife’s dog really and if she wasn’t around, the kids’ dog.

The problem was that no one told Annie that.

I don't know what happened. Some suggest that Annie just saw me as the alpha male. I’m not so sure. I think it is more related to Annie’s love of good food. I’m the cook in our house and the more I stopped being on the road, the closer Annie got to me. So, at meal time Annie never strayed very far from the kitchen.

We developed a kind of routine. When I was cutting up salad stuff she got the ends of the tomatoes and bits of red pepper, she got to test the pasta to see if it was cooked and of course any bits trimmed off the edge anything tasty I was cooking were hers.

After a while she decided that she’d have to be wherever I was, no matter what was going on. It became hard to get up from the couch without stepping on her.

She has been slowing down these last few months and found the winter tough. We figured that spring would  give her and easier time of it then, to our surprise, things got worse. We hoped she’d rally but she went downhill pretty fast. Then her liver shut down.

You don’t decide how you fit into an animal’s pecking order, they do it for you. So as it turned out, she definitely was my dog and a pretty good one at that.

Telling it Like it is

Tory Senator Nancy Ruth is getting a lot of flack these days and I am not sure it is warrented. She was just telling it like it is, a rare trait amoungst politicians.

A few days ago Ruth, a former United Church minister and lifelong activist, was speaking to a group on Parliament Hill that had gathered to discuss the declining importance women's right has within the Harper government's foreign policy. She was putting forth the argument that with this government at least, the more you push the more backlash there will be so, she was suggesting that the women’s groups just layoff the issue of including funding for abortion in Canada's G8 plan. She told them it would be best if they just "Shut the fuck up."

Her advice seemed to me to be strategic not philosophical. In other words, she was suggesting if you fight these guys and they will pay you back. Of course she is right. There is a mean spirit running through that gang in Ottawa who call themselves our government these days. The Harper gang are not the "Turn the other cheek" kind of religious zealots they come for the "Eye for an eye" camp.

So no surprise today when the news came out that the Conservatives thugs have cut funding to 14 women's groups in the last two weeks. As an example, MATCH Canada, a group which works to help women around the world have a say about their lives and their country, was told Friday that its federal funding, $400,000 a year will not be renewed.

What more can we say. This government has to go.


Pandering to the Red Necks

I'm not sure what it is about the gun registry that drive red necks crazy but out here in Saskatchewan nothing gets them quite so riled up, except perhaps daylight saving time. Not a logical argument in sight. You should see the bumper stickers out here. The Harper government loves these guys.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police think it is a good idea to register long guns and I don't think you could find a more, small "c" conservative group than them. I understand why they figure a registry is a good idea. When old Jarod gets a few beer in him and gets mad at the world because he has gotten behind on the payments for that new 4 wheel drive F150 crew cab pickup and starts taking pot shots at the neighbours, it would be good for the cops to know if the bugger has a .22 or an arsenal of assault rifles. I don't know but if I was a cop, I'd like to know.

Of course, Harper and his gang argue that the cop can't be sure of what guns might be in the house because the registry isn't up to date. They argue that it just gives the police a false sense of security. They don't mention of course that the registry isn't up to date because this government decided to put into place a moratorium in place which stops the police from pressing charges to anyone who refuses to register. Now that is a weird circular argument if I ever heard one.

The same government that wants to "get tough on crime" wants to make it easier for people to hide gun ownership. Go figure. Oh I forgot, that guy with a gun, taking pot-shots at anything that moves isn't a criminal. He's just having what we might describe conservatively as "Having a bad day."

So in a society where we have to get a licence or permit

  • so we can drive, 
  • get married,
  • before we can sell hot dogs in the street,
  • to renovate your house,
  • for your dog
  • to register your boat
  • so you can fish or hunt
that is all fine. No one complains. What it comes to guns however, that is another story.

Little Stevie complains that the gun registry is expensive and excessively bureaucratic when it is his responsibility and the responsibility of his Minister to make sure it isn't. The RCMP isn't working they way I think it should either. I still don't think we should scrap them.

So let’s just cut all this bull about scrapping the long gun registry, stop the moratorium, fix whatever inefficiencies exist in the system and get back to work. Get these guns registered as soon as possible then throw the book at anyone who refuses to comply.

Let me assure you. I will not lose a minute's sleep if a couple of red necks go to jail for refusing to comply with the law. In fact, I'll feel a little safer.

And while we are at it, let’s make the penalty for carrying a concealed weapon or possessing an unregistered hand gun so onerous, that no one would dare break that law.